…with coffee and cream, thanks.” I say.
The words flow out of my mouth as easily as tomato sauce from a refill carton when you’ve remembered to punch an air hole in the opposite side from which you’re pouring. The words are quick, practiced from having been said almost every week for the last year, and concise, with the ‘thanks’ part added for courtesy, just because.
But as much as I enjoy this beverage, caramel frappuccinos have become something other people negatively assess my character on.
I can’t remember when people started getting judged by their coffee preferences. On second thought, maybe it’s always been that way; there does seem to be that kind of thing happening when people mention the beers they drink of the wines they like. You mention any drink that you like and you can easily see the cogs behind the other person’s eyes turning, thoughtfully putting you into a box of ‘people who like this kind of drink’. In my case however, that box is usually right next to ‘people I may need to conjure up excuses around so I can get away from them’ and other such categorizations that let-off a kind of distasteful mental smell.
It’s not so much the drink itself that I’m getting judged on, but rather everything that’s associated with that drink. And everything associated with the caramel frappuccino is a negative point on the mental scorecard that people create when associating with others:
- It’s not ‘real’ coffee (-5 points)
- It’s basically a sugar drink (-10 points)
- It’s served-up by a large corporate entity (-1000 points).
It doesn’t help that my alcohol preferences tend to follow similar routes. I don’t drink a lot, or very often, but when I do I tend to drink the more ‘mainstream’ beers, and I’m of the opinion that all white wine tastes like all other white wine, and all red wine tastes like all other red wine (which in turn tastes like cough syrup).
It’s not just drinks though:
- Food: some will really take a dig at how meals are presented and how they taste, whereas I’m just happy to be eating.
- TV shows: when’s the next season of Once Upon a Time coming out?
- Books: bring on the sequel to Dead Until Dark (aka: True Blood book #1)!
I like so many mainstream/popular things and am not a connoisseur of anything that I rack-up a ridiculous amount of negative points in everybody’s mental scorecard - I basically need a massive social handicap just to break even.
Yet despite everything I’ve written so far, this is actually something I care very little about.
I got through the whole don’t-care-what-other-people-think-and-be-comfortable-with-yourself thing a long long time ago, and I find it amusing and a little sad that lots of people around my age still put such great importance on these trivial things.
For example, I have several friends who go through great lengths to pick and choose the photos of themselves that end-up on Facebook, personally vetoing anything that shows a mundane or every-day side of themselves. I want to shout at them and say that the every-day side that they’re so afraid of revealing is the side of them that I and their friends have long since accepted, and whose company we enjoy; not the all-smiles and good clothes version of them that only seems to exist in still-frames online.
Why don’t you want to show that side of yourself?
I want to shout those things, but I don’t, because saying things that somebody doesn’t want to hear is a sure-fire way to never be heard, no matter how many decibels are used to convey the message. (Case in point: every argument on the internet.)
So instead I wait, and hope, that they’ll see it themselves; only then will they be willing to listen.
But until then, they spend far too much time and energy on trying to present this curated version of themselves that is less like who they are and more like an emaciated version of their personality with a nice sheen on it. ie: a carefully crafted and very fragile lie.
I think that’s what got to me to not fall victim to this same trap in the end: it’s all just a form of lying or bending the truth that requires far too much personal investment for very little payback. When thinking about how it would all play out in the long term, it just didn’t seem like it was worth it.
I really enjoy spending my time with others who have come to a similar conclusion and have settled, not just into being proud of who they are, but also into not letting the opinions of others shape who they want to be. These sorts of people are so many steps closer to really being happy, and it shows: the clarity that I can see on their faces, the reduction in worries that weigh down on their shoulders, and the amount of honesty that flows from the conversations I have with these people are just so comfortable and fulfilling at the same time. There are virtually zero faux pas that can occur between us because we’ve long since accepted each other, but more importantly, we’ve long since accepted ourselves.
When it comes to newer people in my life, then I present the same person to them as I do everybody else. If they don’t like what they see in those first couple of meetings, then at least they can dismiss me quickly and move on to other people. If they do like what they see, then at least they have a much better idea of who they’re associating with now, leading to far fewer surprises later down the track.
So… hi, my name is Emanuel, I like caramel frappuccinos, I think The Hunger Games are a wonderful series of books and movies (screw Battle Royale), and I look forward to seeing Taylor Swift in concert when she comes to New Zealand later this year.
That’s just a little bit of who I am.
Who are you?